The Rev. Carlyle Gill, a priest associate on the staff of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Lewes, started out life in the small town of Ruxton, Md., near Baltimore. Her career took her to populated areas in California and Washington, D.C. And, now she lives in retirement in another small town, Lewes.
“I don’t miss big city life,” she said. “All the traffic. All the stress. Lewes has a lot of appeal. I know people here on a first-name basis. And, I see them as I go out and about.”
“Ruxton was like a village,” Gill said. Her father owned a large Baltimore Sun newspaper route and enjoyed building houses that the family would live in for awhile and then he’d sell the property and build another.
“Growing up, life was calm,” she said. “We were fortunate in being financially well off. Ruxton was very safe and we had lots of friends.” An older sister, Carolyn, lives in nearby Timonium, Md. and when one of the former family homes goes on sale, she calls Gill and sometimes, together, they look through
the property for old time’s sake.
Now 67 years of age, Gill was one of the first woman Episcopal priests ordained in the U.S. “I’m like my Dad,” she said. “He was independent and did incredible things.”
A lifelong Episcopalian, Gill was a creative, “rebel kid” who loved taking courses she chose without worrying about what she would do with them. She says that it was in her higher education years that she felt the desire to become a priest even though it wasn’t possible to be a priest in her early years.
She began her higher education training by graduating from Queen’s University in Charlotte, N.C., where she received a bachelor of arts degree in the Bible and religion. She earned a master’s degree in the philosophy of religion at Columbia University in New York City.
A life of spiritual pursuit was taking shape, Gill started her work by teaching religion at a small boarding school in Boston, Mass. At the same time, she served as lay assistant at a small nearby church.
In 1973, Gill entered seminary at Virginia Episcopal Seminary in Alexandria, Va. She was 27 years old and she graduated in 1976. In her class there were only four women out of 75 students.
That same year, the Episcopal Church changed a canon (law) so women could be ordained to the priesthood. “Now, more than half of each seminary class are women,” she said.
The next step for Gill was an assignment as chaplain to the University of the South or Sewanee, in Tennessee. She was ordained a priest in 1977 and spent three years there before moving to the west coast to be an associate rector of a parish in heavily populated Santa Monica, Calif. She was there eight years. “I loved it,” she said. The name of the parish was St. Augustine By The Sea.
By 1987, with her elderly parents on the east coast, she decided to move east to be a rector at the St.Stephen's and Incarnation Church in Washington D.C. She was there nine years, then moved on in 1997 to be a senior associate priest at St. Alban’s Church in Washington, D.C.
In 2006, Gill retired after 30 years of continuous service. She was 60 years old. Gill’s partner, Carol Wzorek, had a home in Lewes where the two women began their retired life at the beach in 2009. “I’m happy to be here, “ Gill said. “I love the small town atmosphere. It takes me back to my happy growing up years in rural Maryland.”
Both Gill and Wzorek are busy with life at the beach. Wzorek, a former U.S. State Department professional, stays busy as a volunteer day manager with the Community Resource Center, and does work with Habitat for Humanity. Her mother is a resident of the Cadbury retirement community in Lewes.
Gill preaches once a month at St. Peter’s church, goes to Cadbury once a month on Thursdays to do a service for residents, and is active in the Interfaith Progressive Alliance of Churches which is a local group that plans interfaith services for Lewes-Rehoboth Association of Churches churches in the area, as well as those of the Jewish and Unitarian faiths.
She also helps with the work for the homeless that local churches are doing. And, as spiritual director, she leads retreats for local people and churches. In that capacity, she also serves the needs of clergy and lay people in Lewes and Washington, D.C.
“This parish, St. Peter’s Church, and the area here in Lewes, are blessed and happy places to be,“ Gill said. For more information go to www.stpeterslewes.org.